Steelers Should Hold Polamalu & Parker Out Until Bye
2-2 has never looked so good for Steelers fans, especially considering the injuries they have suffered to key players. While the Steelers have not had an extensive injury report in 2009, the ones on it have been key players. The loss of strong safety Troy Polamalu is an obvious huge loss. The Steelers defense is missing that one link in the chain that makes an average defense, a great defense. The good news is that the Steelers still have been in every game and very easily could be 4-0 at this point.
Running back Willie Parker had appeared to final get his sea legs underneath him in the game against Cincinnati until the turf toe injury happened during the game courtesy of Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko. Thankfully, second year running back Rashard Mendenhall answered the bell Sunday night against the Chargers after a previous week of being questioned about his preparation for the Bengals game.
The thing that sits squarely in the favor at this point for the Steelers is their own schedule. They get the Lions, Browns and Vikings before having a bye week. While nothing is guaranteed in the NFL on any given Sunday, 2 of these 3 games you would think are very winnable. They very easily could go into the bye week 5-2 or 4-3.
Although Polamalu and Parker are saying all of the right things as far as trying to be ready for Detroit next week, it just does not make sense to rush either one until they are 100%. Parker has developed a label as far as not being able to last a full season health wise and letting him sit until the game against the Broncos will save a ton of wear and tear on him. The Steelers will still need him at some point during the season, even if he does not retain his starting spot. Polamalu on the other hand is a player that can change a game on the defensive side of the ball when he is 100%. The MCL injury was termed as a 6 week injury when it happened and right now we are at the 3 week mark. It sure feels like it has been 6 weeks with the play of the 4th quarter defense, but the calendar does not lie.
Sitting both until after the bye is the smart choice here, but I have a feeling Parker will buck to try to return early as he is in a contract year and could be in jeopardy of losing his starting spot. It will be curious to see how head coach Mike Tomlin handles the situation with Parker as to not lose him from a team focal point. Hopefully, both Polamalu and Parker see that it is a journey and not a race as far as how they can best help the team. The journey being getting themselves back to 100% before trying to play.